How to Troubleshoot Your Sump Pump

Ellie Brooks

Written By Ellie Brooks

Published 10/27/22
How to Troubleshoot Your Sump Pump

If you live an area prone to flooding, a basement sump pump is essential. Like your water heater or HVAC system, your sump pump is a workhorse, but it’s susceptible to malfunctions and breakdowns just the same. Some malfunctions may call for the help of a professional, but there are several common sump pump problems that you can diagnose and even resolve by yourself.

Need sump pump help? Before you reach for your phone and wallet, check out Liberty Home Guard’s sump pump troubleshooting guide. With a little luck, you’ll have your pump in working order in no time.

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How to Troubleshoot Sump Pump Problems

Sump pump issues could have a few potential causes. Below are some diagnoses to investigate if your sump pump backed up, broke down, or won’t stop running.

1. The sump pump is backing up.

A sump pump backing up into basement spaces is often due to a clog somewhere in the system. First, check that the sump pump itself is free of dirt and debris. Sump pumps should always be fitted with a lid. This prevents material from accumulating inside the pump and causing all sorts of issues. If your sump pump is lidless, it’s vulnerable to foreign matter that can keep it from working properly. This will eventually lead to flooding. Visually inspect your sump pump basin for a clog. If there is dirt or other debris inside, clean it out.

A clog can also appear somewhere in the drainage system. Check your sump pump’s discharge pipe, which should be somewhere outside the home, well away from the foundation. The discharge pipe can become clogged with mud, grass, leaves, ice, or even an animal’s nest. Remove any debris from the pipe’s opening. If you suspect the clog is somewhere further up the pipe, run a long plumber’s snake through the length of the pipe to dislodge the potential clog.

A sump pump backing up could have circumstantial causes too. Exceptionally heavy rain or snowmelt could overwhelm an otherwise functional system. If your sump pump problem coincided with a bad storm, you may just need a more powerful piece of equipment or an extra sump pump to handle your region’s weather.

Also consider the age of your pump and when it was installed. Is it a new pump that is already causing you trouble? The pump could be defective, or it may have been improperly installed. Contact the manufacturer or a plumber to confirm.

2. The sump pump has a foul odor.

People sometimes associate sump pumps with the smell of sewage, but a properly installed and maintained pump should not allow foul gases into your basement. Sump pumps should always have some standing water in a drain trap. The water in the trap prevents unpleasant odors from escaping. If that water evaporates, you’ll notice the smell of sulfur or sewage. Evaporation is more likely if your sump does not have a well-fitted lid.

If your sump pump smells, check that there is enough water to cover the trap. If the water level appears too low, top it off. You can add about one cup of bleach to one gallon of water to disinfect the pump. If the smell is particularly bad, you may want to scrub the basin and pump clean with a bleach solution. You can also purchase deodorizing tablets that you simply drop into the sump basin.

3. The sump pump won’t power on.

If your sump pump isn’t turning on, there could be a problem with the power supply. Conduct a differential diagnosis by first checking for any signs of power, such as indicator lights. If you see signs that the sump pump is drawing power, the malfunction could be due to a broken switch or burned-out motor. Both scenarios will likely require professional repair.

If the sump pump doesn’t appear to be drawing any power at all, check the power supply. Confirm that the pump is powered on and plugged securely into an outlet. From there, check your breaker panel to confirm that the circuit is drawing power. It’s possible that a storm caused an electrical surge that tripped the breaker. You could also have too many appliances drawing power from that circuit, or there could be an electrical short or other wiring problem that requires the help of a professional electrician.

Of course, you can’t expect your sump pump to operate during a power outage, but this can be distressing because outages often occur during heavy rainstorms—precisely when you want a functional and reliable sump pump! You can ensure your pump will operate in the event of a power failure by hooking it up to a backup generator. You can also supplement your main sump pump with a backup battery-powered pump.

4. The sump pump won’t stop running.

Your sump pump should not be running at all times. This will quickly burn out the motor, and you won’t have a sump pump when you really need it. Again, consider the circumstances of the problem. If this is a recent problem and the pump basic is dry, there is probably a faulty switch or a broken check valve.

Pressure sensors or float activators are the usual mechanisms by which sump pumps engage. If the sump pump basin becomes clogged with dirt or debris, it could trigger the sensor or cause the activator to become stuck. Another possibility is that the pump itself somehow shifted positions, preventing the switch from triggering the unit to turn off.

If the switch appears fine, the check valve inside the discharge pipe could be malfunctioning. You’ll probably want a professional to diagnose and resolve this issue.

If, on the other hand, your sump pump has consistently run for long periods without interruption, the sump pump may be inadequate for the volume of water it regularly encounters. Speak with a knowledgeable professional to determine whether you should upgrade your pump, expand your sump pit, or purchase a supplementary unit.

Extending the Lifespan of Your Sump Pump

As with any other home appliance, a little sump pump maintenance goes a long way. Regularly check the basin for debris and inspect the discharge pipe for clogs. Periodically look over the unit for signs of corrosion. Listen for unusual noises that could indicate the need for lubrication. These simple tasks will keep your pump humming for years to come, but consider warranty protection for a little extra assurance. Liberty Home Guard will cover all your sump pump’s mechanical components.

Use our website for a free quote or call (866)-432-1283.

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